Born in 1947 in the Netherlands. Teacher, editor, columnist and poet. Four published books of poetry, two of those out of print. Frequently anthologized. Won some small prizes. Bird watcher, dog walker. Married to a musician. Lives in Victoria. Spends four months of the year living in an isolated setting in BC’s coastal Desolation Sound.
Questions & Answers
Hannah Main-van der Kamp on Poetry
As a girl, I loved to read. Poor at sports, weakly skilled in social niceties, I grew up in a literate but financially challenged family. Reading was the pastime of choice. In my early teens I began to notice poetry, also noticing that some poets spoke to me more than others. The school literary curriculum consisted of dead, English male authors.
Poetry pursued me. In my late teens I was writing it seriously enough to submit it to journals and to get into Creative Writing classes.
What is inspiration? It cannot be pursued. In silence and seclusion, I am receptive to epiphanies. The moments when words, images, sensations converge seem to me to be sacred moments. Time stand still. Other poets find those moments in the midst of political, social, sexual or chemically altered states. A different kind of poetry emerges. We need all of those.
The kind of contemplative nature poetry that I write is made of jotted down phrases, questions, quotations, field guide excerpts and images. They come from the fringes of my awareness and knock on the door of my verbal consciousness. I seldom know how they are connected, rarely in a linear fashion. The words reverberate on the page, a scintillating constellation. Then I look for the point of greatest Energy and follow where it leads. After that, I wait, days, sometimes years until the poem is ready to take shape.
To all young writers I say: read, read, read. No day without a poem. Read widely, read aloud, read even those poets with whom you lack affinity. Or think you do. Always carry a notebook.
My influences include liturgy of the Anglo-catholic variety, Field guides, Mary Oliver, Don McKay, Tim Lilburn, William Stafford, Louise Gluck.
If contemplative nature poetry is your calling you will need to cultivate quietude. You will speak and write only to bring yourselves and others, through the door of intensive observation, into silence.